Friday, 28 November 2014

A very long day

We are here!  We had a long and, thankfully, uneventful journey to Melbourne.  We travelled through the night, to Dubai, the early morning sun creeping inside the aircraft as we flew into a new day.  
We had a couple of hours in Dubai Airport, resisting the temptation to buy one of these in duty free! It wasn't hard.
And then on, and on, and on, and on, and on, through another night to arrive in Melbourne early on Friday morning, and a joyful reunion with our son, his lovely lady, and our glorious little 2 year old granddaughter.  She ran to meet us as the airport, calling Mama and Pops all the way.  That made the long journey worthwhile in itself! 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Up, up and away!

Tomorrow Mr Gaucho and I jet off to Australia for six weeks.  I have spent the morning doing housework - yuk - in the hope that things will stay more or less clean and tidy while we are away! The cat and the dog will still be in residence (not home alone I hasten to add!), so I can only hope for a modicum of cleanliness when we get back!

Having finished my chores, and before starting on the ironing, I took the dogs for a walk round the fields at the end of the drive.  I didn't take my camera (always a mistake).  It is hard to take decent photos when holding two leads!  We walked through the stone pillars and I went to inspect the undergrowth where the violets grow in Spring.  To my amazement I could see a carpet of little, emerald green heart-shaped leaves.  The weather is still so mild that I fear they may be in for a bit of a shock by the time the year is out.

Walking on, and the red cabbage field in the distance was the colour those little violet flowers will be, when they finally make their appearance.  Later on during our walk, the colour had turned to navy blue.  It changes constantly with the light.  I took a photo of that field some weeks ago, and to my surprise I found it on Google Images!  Not sure how that happened.

It has been a quiet, still morning.  The sun weak, but welcome.  As we walked towards the road at the end of the drive, lapwings were swirling over the fields. There must have about a hundred of them.  I wondered what their collective name was - and isn't this brilliant - it's a deceit of lapwings!  As they fly horizontally the group almost disappears, it flattens out until they change direction and then each bird's outline looks like a child's drawing, two curved lines, meeting in the middle.  They are beautiful farmland birds, whose numbers are declining at an alarming rate.  To see them wielding around in the air, as we did this morning, is a joy and a privilege.

Our walk was all about flying things!  A microlite was buzzing around above, groups of geese chattered and cackled their way to and fro across the sky, an extremely large song thrush sat alone on a telegraph wire, smaller birds flitting around in the hedges, and then on the small lake at the edge of one of the fields, the two resident swans were floating, sedate and superior.  Then they dipped their longs necks into the water and up went their feathery bums!  Not so elegant!  I was reminded of one of my favourite childhood poems, Ducks Ditty by Kenneth Grahame.  I know the words but wanted to double check the name of the poem and found this  - do have a look.  Very sweet indeed, and a relief to find a young child reciting poetry!

So tomorrow we will be up there in the sky with the lapwings, thrushes, geese, swans and the other lovely flying things, although at a much greater altitude (I hope)!  We arrive in Australia early on Friday morning, and then our six weeks of birthday, wedding, Christmas and New Year celebrations will begin!  

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Sorry about this

but I have become mildly obsessed with autumnal beech leaves.  This year they seem to be particularly beautiful, especially with the sun shining on them, and a backdrop of soft blue sky.  There is a straggle of young beech trees running along the back boundary of our garden.  They are only small trees, dotted about, but rain or shine, gloom or glow, their glorious ginger-biscuit coloured leaves shine out, bringing a warmth and beauty to the wood as it declines into winter.
I just can't resist them!

I love an optimist!

This bramble is obviously an optimist.  There's little chance of it producing any berries, but it's going for it anyway.  And why not!  There's far too much negativity going on in the world. We need all the positive thinkers we can muster.
It's a quiet morning here in East Lothian, weather-wise.  The clear, washed east coast skies are lovely, as always, and the dogs and I enjoyed a muddy walk around a couple of big fields.  A very good start to the day.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A Poem House

I had a great day yesterday.  I went to a workshop run by an artist called Brigid Collins. She is a delightful, clever, thoughtful lady who manages to combine the written word with the visual arts. She described her work as three dimensional collage, and that description seems to fit the bill! Her website is very worthwhile exploring, and there you can see some of her poem houses.

We had to take a poem along with us, as well as some bits and pieces we thought we might like to work with.  I have an old exercise book, labelled 'Elocution', which belonged to my mother.  This book dates from the 1920s.  In her childish hand there are lots of poems, written out carefully, to be learnt and recited at school.  There are a few corrections on the pages, made by her teacher.  

From Mum's book, I photographed 'From a Railway Carriage' by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It is a poem I also learnt as a child and I still think of it, especially when blackberrying time comes round.  
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles
All by himself and gathering brambles;
I had in mind that my poem house might be a nest, in a hedge, and although it is not an obvious house, a nest is a house - to a bird!  

Brigid started off her workshop by showing us the huge array of things we could use to create our poem houses - wire, paper, PVA glue, inks, stencils, letters, an old typewriter on which to type words, masses of mediums to choose from.  She showed us how to build up delicious paint effects on tissue paper, using colour, gold stuff, stencilling - the options are endless.
There were five of us on the course, and we all did something completely different.  I now know why I have spent all my life collecting little bits and pieces, beautiful to me, pointless to others, but I now know how I can use them!  It's so exciting!  
 It was a thoroughly enjoyable day of pure play.  I loved it.  
I chose three extracts from my poem - 'hedges and ditches', 'gathering brambles' and the last three words of the poem 'gone for ever'.  I traced them from my mother's handwriting on to tissue paper and attached them to the piece.  The nest sits on a real length of blackberry stem, very prickly, lovely purple colour on its top side and green underneath - beautiful.  In the nest I put the 'gone for ever' extract.  Once the eggs have hatched and the fledglings have flown, they have gone for ever.  
The final collection are a funny lot.  The box on the left hand side was amazing inside, very theatrical and clever, especially with a light shone through from the back, and the others were iridescent and gorgeous!  Mine was a bit whimsical, but I loved making it.
I took another poem with me.  A haiku poem.
Buds of folded blue
Origami masterpiece -
Harebells in waiting.
I really would like to make a poem house with it, more in keeping with Brigid's ideas, so I am going to do that, not any time soon, though, because the next week and a half are going to be very busy with preparations for going to Australia for 6 weeks.  But in the New Year …..!  

Friday, 14 November 2014

At the end of the day

I love seeing weather fronts stretching across the sky.  This is what today's looked like, around four o'clock this afternoon.  
It rained all day, but just before the rain moved off, out to sea, the sun came out, shining from the west.  It created the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen.  It was so big that I couldn't get the whole thing into one photo.
And then a dove grey sky, with curls of silver cloud.  A beautiful end to an awful day of weather!

Witches on the heath weather

It's real witches on heath weather today - iron grey and windy with huge, cold raindrops.  Not nice at all.  However, completely unfazed by classic November weather, and glowing in the wood behind the house, are the beech trees.  

Monday, 10 November 2014

Not a classic November day!

There was a very soft and pretty light early this morning.  When I came out of my art class in Portobello at 12 noon, the sun was shining and there was not a breathe of wind.  I drove towards Musselburgh and the sea to my left was like a mill pond.  And in the hazy, blue-grey distance was Cockenzie Power Station, looking as romantic in that light as any power station could possibly look!  
I am really going to miss those two chimneys when they demolish them, sooner now than later.  :o(

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A small tribute to my sweet pea plants

I am posting this photo of the last of my sweet peas, picked this morning, before I cleared the raised bed where they have been growing this year.  When I got back from Australia in July, I really didn't expect the plants to flower much beyond the beginning of August.  They had not been picked while I was away, and they do like to be picked and picked, to keep the flowers coming.  The old flower heads had produced masses of seed pods, so I cut as many off as I could, gave the plants some feed, and, bless their hearts, they have persevered until today. Hooray!

"Don't forget me, cobber"

I have posted this photograph before, in 2012, but it seems even more appropriate this year, as we remember all those men who fought for us so bravely during the devastating years of the First World War.  'Don't forget me, cobber' is a bronze sculpture, sited just down the hill in the wonderful parkland surrounding the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.   'Don't forget me, cobber', was the cry uttered by a fallen Australian soldier as battle rescuers were recovering casualties from no-mans-land, following the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 2016.
It's disappointing not to have been able to see all those commemorative poppies, flowing around the walls of the Tower of London.   A similar tribute could perhaps have been sited up north, in York for example, to reach more of the population.  But I hear, now, that there is going to be a touring exhibition, so perhaps it will come to Edinburgh, although hopefully not while we are away in Australia during December!  So, I might miss it anyway, but instead, here are my poppies for Remembrance Sunday, with the promise of a ripening field of corn beyond.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

No gunpowder, no treason and no reason to plot anything dastardly in these parts, but I couldn't resist spending some time in the garden this afternoon, to light a bonfire.  It was a modest affair, but I got rid of some of the dead stuff I have been cutting back in the flower beds and along the lavender hedge, and it was just good to be outside in the sunshine.

There are still some leaves to come down off the trees, but, as everything is dying back, there has been the emergence of new, green life.  The arums have produced a fresh batch of their beautiful, ornate leaves.  I'm not sure if they have their timing right, but the leaves are welcome nevertheless!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Colour rules!

In term time I start my week with an art class in Portobello.  I have a great teacher.  Jemma Derbyshire (, a very talented young artist as well as an excellent tutor.  Jemma loves colour, and so do I.  During the last two lessons we have been using luscious colour, and today we finished off a painting we started last week.

This was my little corner of a larger still life set up.  These three peppers are tiny, and that is part of a leek running along the top!
We had a fairly limited palette of colours to work with.  Jemma always knows exactly what combinations you need, and how much down to the last smidge, to get the colour you want. That's what happens when you know your stuff!
 This is my piece.  It's colourful, if nothing else!
Whatever the end result, the class is always a great start to a busy week!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Pinch punch ….

… it's the first of the month.  It's November, which seems slightly mad for a number of reasons. Firstly, how did we get here so quickly?  This year seems to have galloped past at the most alarming rate.  And it's so warm.  Yesterday was just silly.  Temperature-wise there was very little chill attached to Halloween!  The children went to North Berwick for a spot of trick or treating. They had a selection of corny jokes to tell, which must have gone down well because they came home, each with an enormous carrier bag of sweets, enough to keep them going until Christmas!

Tilly and I had a wonderful walk today.  We haven't been to the beach at Tyninghame for weeks, so we put our best feet forward, on a bright, sunny morning.

I know that sea buckthorn is an invasive plant, but I do love it.  The colours are so subtle, soft orange berries and silvery grey leaves.  To reach the top of the dune you have to walk through a thicket of buckthorn.  As always, the view from the top did not disappoint.
One of the things I enjoy most about going to the beach is the chance that you might come across something fun and creative.  Today I found this!  A sand castle perched on top of a rock - it could have been modelled on Edinburgh Castle.  And how clever to build it out of the  way of the waves.  It will be there for days!
We left that beach and cut through the fragrant smelling pine woods to another, very different stretch of coastline.  This beach, which looks across the Tyne Estuary to Belhaven and the Lammermuir Hills beyond, has pavements of rock and the trees come right down the sand. Curlews winnow, oyster catchers and other sea birds call.  The sights and sounds are wild and beautiful.
And then we cut back in to the wood.  There is a long string of concrete cubes, running along behind the beach.  They are anti-tank defences, cast in-situ during the last war.  Nowadays they look more like an art installation!
We passed amazing colour on the way back to the car.  Blue-green leeks, foxy brown bracken, elephant grey beech trees.  It was all just so good!